How where you live may affect your cause of death

Anna Maria Barry-Jester of FiveThirtyEight recently looked at a study done by Laura Dwyer-Lindgren of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington and her colleagues. The study highlights how the 21 leading causes of mortality in America have changed from 1980 to 2014. This data overall highlights the differences in the leading causes of death across the United States, and how some mortality causes have changed over time. One of the Differences in this mortality study was its accounting for “garbage codes.” These are causes of death that are vague such, as “unspecified heart disease,” where doctors have neither the reasons or resources to find a more specific cause of death.The data from the National Vital Statistics System used for the study contained a total of 80.4 million deaths from 1980 to 2014, of which 19.4 million the cause of death was considered “garbage code.” The researchers accounted for this using previously published literature, demographics, and estimates of the different diseases’ prevalence and severity. Using these the study was able to assign more specific causes of death to these “garbage codes.”

Dwyer-Lindgren hopes that by getting this data out there to the public it can help local health workers and policy makers to target region specific mortality problems to provide better health care overall. The report showed mixed findings such as in Southern Florida, the California coast and New England have had a decrease in cancer deaths, with some places reporting a 58 percent decrease. Yet, in regions such as Kentucky and West Virginia these deaths have increased. Also interesting is that transportation deaths went down by 50 percent in New England and California. These deaths have also increased by 48 percent in the Appalachia region and the South. For a better look at the map and how different causes of death affect different areas check out the map here.



Tyler Aman

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